By Jennifer Evans
During the summer months, it is not unusual to find bats in homes in Boston. Often these animals have flown in and gotten caught and they are just as upset as you!
Bats sometimes carry rabies and may spread it to people or animals through bites or scratches. If a person is exposed to rabies, he or she can be treated to prevent any chance of getting the disease.
Finding a bat in your home does not mean that you immediately need to get treated for rabies. In fact, most of the bats tested in Massachusetts are negative for rabies. If you find a bat in your home, it is important to determine if the bat needs to be captured and submitted for rabies testing, or if it can be allowed to go back outside unharmed.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A BAT IN YOUR HOME
How to capture a bat in your home:
Follow these steps or click here for more details.
- Close all windows and doors, turn on the lights, and wait for the bat to land.
- Wearing heavy gloves, cover the bat with a pail, coffee can or similar container.
- Slide cardboard under the container to trap the bat inside.
- Tape the cardboard to the container.
Boston residents can contact Boston Animal Control at (617) 635-5348 for recommendations or assistance in capturing the bat. You can also find a licensed Animal Control Agent to assist you here.
The bat needs to be captured and tested if:
- Any person or animal came into direct contact with the bat through bites or scratches.
- The bat was found in a room with a sleeping person. Bats have small sharp teeth, which may not leave a visible bite mark. A bite from a bat during the night may not awaken a sleeping person.
- The bat was found with an unattended child, a mentally disabled person, or a person who was not fully aware of his or her surroundings (intoxicated, heavily medicated, etc.).
- The bat had contact with a household pet.
If direct contact or possible contact occurred, capture the bat without touching it. Immediately wash the area of a bite or scratch thoroughly with soap and water. Seek medical attention for people and veterinary care for pets.
If a bat is available for testing and is found to be negative, treatment to prevent rabies is not necessary. However, any bat that cannot be tested must be considered to be positive for rabies. Every year, many Boston residents need to undergo rabies post-exposure treatment because they released a bat from their home instead of capturing it and having it tested.
If the bat needs to be submitted for rabies testing, call the Hinton State Laboratory Institute (617-983-6385) for further instruction. If you are certain that there was no possibility of contact between the bat and any human or pet, the bat can be released or allowed to leave on its own.
For information about bats and rabies, check out these links:
- Bats and Rabies Fact Sheet from the Boston Public Health Commission
- Bat information in Massachusetts from mass.gov
- Rabies information from cdc.gov
For questions about bats or rabies, call the Boston Public Health Commission at (617) 534-5611.
Jennifer is a public health veterinarian with the Communicable Disease Control Division at BPHC.